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PHILIPPI (fĭ-lĭp'ī, Gr. Philippoi). A Macedonian town in the plain east of Mount Pangaeus. It was a strategic foundation of Philip II, father of Alexander, in 358/7 b.c. The position dominated the road system of northern Greece; hence it became the center for the battle of 42 b.c., in which Antony defeated Brutus and Cassius. After Actium (31), Octavian (the future Augustus) constituted the place a Roman colony, housing partisans of Antony whose presence was undesirable in Italy. Philippi had a school of medicine connected with one of those guilds of physicians that the followers of early Greek medicine scattered through the Hellenistic world. This adds point to the suggestion that Luke was a Philippian. There is a touch of pride in Luke’s description of Philippi as “the leading city of that district” (Acts.16.12), though Amphipolis was the capital. Philippi was the first European city to hear a Christian missionary, as far as the records go. Paul’s choice of the locality throws light on the strategy of his evangelism.——LMP

PHILIPPI fĭl’ ə pī (οἱ Φίλιπποι, city of Philip). A city of Macedonia, visited by the Apostle Paul (Acts 16:1, 12-40; 20:6; Phil 1:1; 1 Thess 2:2).


The city was located in eastern Macedonia in a plain E of Mount Pangaeus between the Strymon and Nestos Rivers. It was near the banks of a deep and rapid stream, the Gangites, about ten m. from the sea. To the SE ran the Via Egnatia over a very rocky ridge to the port of Neapolis. Hence, Paul is said to have “sailed away from Philippi” (20:6). In ancient times, the city derived its importance from the fertile plain that it commanded, its strategic location along the Via Egnatia and the gold mines in the mountains to the north.


The site was first inhabited by colonists from the island of Thasos, who worked the gold mines. It was known as Krenides, “springs.” Philip II of Macedon recognized its importance and sent a large colony there in 356 b.c. He changed its name to Philippi (Diodorus, XVI. vii. 6, 7). The mines, though almost exhausted, still provided Philip with more than a thousand talents a year.

After the Macedonians were defeated by the Romans in 167 b.c. Philippi was part of the first district, but the capital of the region was Amphipolis. In 146 b.c. it became part of the reorganized province of Macedonia, whose capital was Thessalonica. The decisive battle of the second civil war was fought at Philippi in 42 b.c. Brutus and Cassius had drawn up their forces near the Via Egnatia to the W of the city. Antony successfully attacked Cassius’ camp. The latter committed suicide without knowing that Brutus’ forces had been successful against Octavian. Three weeks later, Brutus was defeated and the war ended.

The city was enlarged by a colony of Rom. veterans after the war. Augustus Caesar later opened up the city for supporters of Antony who had been stripped of their holdings in Italy. The first colony, Colonia Victrix Philippensium, is attested only by coinage. The second colony was known as Colonia Julia Philippensis, later changed to Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis. Because it was a Rom. colony, it had a form of government independent of the provincial administration. There were two chief magistrates, στρατηγοί, who were assisted by lictors, RSV “police” (Acts 16:35).


The ancient city has been partially excavated by the French School at Athens from 1914 to 1938. The forum lay to the S of the Via Egnatia. In the center of it was found a large rostrum, which may have been where Paul and Silas were dragged by the owners of the demon-possessed slave girl. Two large temples are identified along with numerous public and private buildings of the 2nd cent. a.d. A Rom. theater of the same period was built into the side of the acropolis. A mile W of the city are the ruins of a Rom. arch near the River Gangites. An arch usually symbolized the city limits or pomerium of a Rom. settlement. Within the pomerium nothing impure, such as cemeteries or sanctuaries of foreign religions, could be established. This may account for the fact that Paul and Silas went “outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer” (Acts 16:13). Nonrabbinic sources attest the ancient habit of the Jews to recite prayers near rivers or the seashore (Philo Flaccus 14; Jos. Antiq. XIV. x. 23).

Biblical importance.

The text of Acts 16:12 in regard to the standing of the city is difficult. א, A and E read πρώτη τη̂ς μερίδος Μακεδονίας πόλις, κολωνία, “the leading city of Macedonia, and a Roman colony.” Numerous variant readings show that the text was widely misunderstood. Crell has suggested that it should be changed to read πρώτης τη̂ς μερίδος Μακεδονίας πόλις, κολωνία, “a city and colony of the first part [district] of Macedonia.” Others have suggested that the city had some distinction in the 1st cent. a.d. that has not been recorded. Ramsay maintains that there is a touch of pride in Luke’s description, because he was a native of Philippi. The city had a famous school of medicine, which was connected with one of the guilds of physicians that sent its adherents throughout the Hel. world. Luke may, therefore, claim that Philippi was the first city of Macedonia, just as Pergamum, Smyrna and Ephesus all claimed to be the “first city of Asia.”

The Apostle Paul first preached in Europe at Philippi. He came there from Troy by way of Neapolis on the second missionary journey. He went to a place of prayer beside the river on the sabbath where he sat down with a group of women, among them, Lydia, a seller of purple dye from Thyatira. On the way there he was admonished by a slave girl with a spirit of divination, who annoyed him for some time thereafter. Finally, he exorcized the demon to the displeasure of her owners. They dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates of the city and accused them of disturbing the peace by advocating customs that the Romans did not accept. The crowd joined in and the magistrates gave orders for Paul and Silas to be scourged. They were then put in stocks in the inner prison. At midnight an earthquake shook the prison to its foundation. Fearful that his prisoners had escaped, the jailer contemplated suicide. Paul indicated to him that he and Silas were still there. As a result of Paul’s witness, the man believed, and he and his family were baptized. The next day the authorities learned that Paul and Silas were Rom. citizens, apologized to them and asked them to leave the city. They then visited Lydia and other believers before they departed for Thessalonica (Acts 16:12-40).

At this point in the narrative of Acts the pronoun of the first person is dropped until Paul returned to Macedonia on the third missionary journey (Acts 20:5). Many conjecture that Luke, a native of Philippi or, at least, a medical student there at one time, was left behind to work among the churches of Macedonia.

Paul expressed a deep affection for the church at Philippi in a letter written to it while he was in prison either at Rome or Ephesus. The letter was written to thank the church for the gifts of funds and clothing that Epaphroditus had brought to him. After his imprisonment, Paul may again have visited Philippi (1 Tim 1:3).

Philippi reemerged into literary history for a brief moment in the early 2nd cent. a.d. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, was condemned to death as a Christian and sent to Rome under guard by the Emperor Trajan. He traveled through Philadelphia, Smyrna, and Troy to Philippi, and thence presumably to Dyrrachium along the Via Egnatia. The church at Philippi welcomed and escorted him on the way. Two letters from the church were sent, one to the church at Antioch to console it, and one to Polycarp of Smyrna to ask for copies of Ignatius’ correspondence. Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians recites these details and tells also of a scandal caused at Philippi by one Valens and his wife. Later bishops of the church at Philippi were mentioned at the Councils of Laodicea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon.


P. Collart, Philippes ville de Macédone depuis ses origines jusqu’à la fin de l’epoque romaine (1937); J. Schmidt, Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. “Philippoi” (1938); P. Lemerle, Philippes et la Macedoine orientale a l’epoque chretienne et byzantine (1945).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(Philippoi, ethnic Philippesios, Php 4:15):

1. Position and Name:

A city of Macedonia, situated in 41ø 5’ North latitude and 24ø 16’ East longitude. It lay on the Egnatian Road, 33 Roman miles from Amphipolis and 21 from Acontisma, in a plain bounded on the East and North by the mountains which lie between the rivers Zygactes and Nestus, on the West by Mt. Pangaeus, on the South by the ridge called in antiquity Symbolum, over which ran the road connecting the city with its seaport, NEAPOLIS (which see), 9 miles distant. This plain, a considerable part of which is marshy in modern, as in ancient, times, is connected with the basin of the Strymon by the valley of the Angites (Herodotus vii.113), which also bore the names Gangas or Gangites (Appian, Bell. Civ. iv.106), the modern Anghista. The ancient name. of Philippi was Crenides (Strabo vii.331; Diodorus xvi.3, 8; Appian, Bell. Civ. iv.105; Stephanus Byz. under the word), so called after the springs which feed the river and the marsh; but it was refounded by Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, and received his name.

2. History:

Appian (Bell. Civ. iv.105) and Harpocration say that Crenides was afterward called Daton, and that this name was changed to Philippi, but this statement is open to question, since Daton, which became proverbial among the Greeks for good fortune, possessed, as Strabo tells us (vii.331 fr. 36), "admirably fertile territory, a lake, rivers, dockyards and productive gold mines," whereas Philippi lies, as we have seen, some 9 miles inland. Many modern authorities, therefore, have placed Daton on the coast at or near the site of Neapolis. On the whole, it seems best to adopt the view of Heuzey (Mission archeologique, 35, 62 ff) that Daton was not originally a city, but the whole district which lay immediately to the East of Mt. Pangaeus, including the Philippian plain and the seacoast about Neapolis. On the site of the old foundation of Crenides, from which the Greek settlers had perhaps been driven out by the Thracians about a century previously, the Thasians in 360 BC founded their colony of Daton with the aid of the exiled Athenian statesman Callistratus, in order to exploit the wealth, both agricultural and mineral, of the neighborhood. To Philip, who ascended the Macedonian throne in 359 BC, the possession of this spot seemed of the utmost importance. Not only is the plain itself well watered and of extraordinary fertility, but a strongly-fortified post planted here would secure the natural land-route from Europe to Asia and protect the eastern frontier of Macedonia against Thracian inroads. Above all, the mines of the district might meet his most pressing need, that of an abundant supply of gold. The site was therefore seized in 358 BC, the city was enlarged, strongly fortitled, and renamed, the Thasian settlers either driven out or reinforced, and the mines, worked with characteristic energy, produced over 1,000 talents a year (Diodorus xvi.8) and enabled Philip to issue a gold currency which in the West soon superseded the Persian darics (G.F. Hill, Historical Greek Coins, 80 ff). The revenue thus obtained was of inestimable value to Philip, who not only used it for the development of the Macedonian army, but also proved himself a master of the art of bribery. His remark is well known that no fortress was impregnable to whose walls an ass laden with gold could be driven. Of the history of Philippi during the next 3 centuries we know practically nothing. Together with the rest of Macedonia, it passed into the Roman hands after the battle of Pydna (168 BC), and fell in the first of the four regions into which the country was then divided (Livy xlv.29). In 146 the whole of Macedonia was formed into a single Roman province. But the mines seem to have been almost, if not quite, exhausted by this time, and Strabo (vii. 331 fr. 41) speaks of Philippi as having sunk by the time of Caesar to a "small settlement" (katoikia mikra). In the autumn of 42 BC it witnessed the death-struggle of the Roman republic. Brutus and Cassius, the leaders of the band of conspirators who had assassinated Julius Caesar, were faced by Octavian, who 15 years later became the Emperor Augustus, and Antony. In the first engagement the army of Brutus defeated that of Octavian, while Antony’s forces were victorious over those of Cassius, who in despair put an end to his life. Three weeks later the second and decisive conflict took place. Brutus was compelled by his impatient soldiery to give battle, his troops were routed and he himself fell on his own sword. Soon afterward Philippi was made a Roman colony with the title Colonia Iulia Philippensis. After the battle of Actium (31 BC) the colony was reinforced, largely by Italian partisans of Antony who were dispossessed in order to afford allotments for Octavian’s veterans (Dio Cassius li.4), and its name was changed to Colonia Augusta Iulia (Victrix) Philippensium: It received the much-coveted iusItalicum (Digest L. 15, 8, 8), which involved numerous privileges, the chief of which was the immunity of its territory from taxation.

3. Paul’s First Visit:

In the course of his second missionary journey Paul set sail from Troas, accompanied by Silas (who bears his full name Silvanus in 2Co 1:19; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1), Timothy and Luke, and on the following day reached Neapolis (Ac 16:11). Thence he journeyed by road to Philippi, first crossing the pass some 1,600 ft. high which leads over the mountain ridge called Symbolum and afterward traversing the Philipplan plain. Of his experiences there we have in Ac 16:12-40 a singularly full and graphic account. On the Sabbath, presumably the first Sabbath after their arrival, the apostle and his companions went out to the bank of the Angites, and there spoke to the women, some of them Jews, others proselytes, who had come together for purposes of worship.

One of these was named Lydia, a Greek proselyte from Thyatira, a city of Lydia in Asia Minor, to the church of which was addressed the message recorded in Re 2:18-29. She is described as a "seller of purple" (Ac 16:14), that is, of woolen fabrics dyed purple, for the manufacture of which her native town was famous. Whether she was the agent in Philippi of some firm in Thyatira or whether she was carrying on her trade independently, we cannot say; her name suggests the possibility that she was a freedwoman, while from the fact that we hear of her household and her house (Ac 16:15; compare 16:40), though no mention is made of her husband, it has been conjectured that she was a widow of some property. She accepted the apostolic message and was baptized with her household (Ac 16:15), and insisted that Paul and his companions should accept her hospitality during the rest of their stay in the city.

See further LYDIA.

All seemed to be going well when opposition arose from an unexpected quarter. There was in the town a girl, in all probability a slave, who was reputed to have the power of oracular utterance. Herodotus tells us (vii. III) of an oracle of Dionysus situated among the Thracian tribe of the Satrae, probably not far from Philippi; but there is no reason to connect the soothsaying of this girl with that worship. In any case, her masters reaped a rich harvest from the fee charged for consulting her. Paul, troubled by her repeatedly following him and those with him crying, "These men are bondservants of the Most High God, who proclaim unto you a way of salvation" (Ac 16:17 margin), turned and commanded the spirit in Christ’s name to come out of her. The immediate restoration of the girl to a sane and normal condition convinced her masters that all prospect of further gain was gone, and they therefore seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the forum before the magistrates, probably the duumviri who stood at the head of the colony. They accused the apostles of creating disturbance in the city and of advocating customs, the reception and practice of which were illegal for Ro citizens. The rabble of the market-place joined in the attack (Ac 16:22), whereupon the magistrates, accepting without question the accusers’ statement that Paul and Silas were Jews (Ac 16:20) and forgetting or ignoring the possibility of their possessing Ro citizenship, ordered them to be scourged by the attendant lictors and afterward to be imprisoned. In the prison they were treated with the utmost rigor; they were confined in the innermost ward, and their feet put in the stocks. About midnight, as they were engaged in praying and singing hymns, while the other prisoners were listening to them, the building was shaken by a severe earthquake which threw open the prison doors. The jailer, who was on the point of taking his own life, reassured by Paul regarding the safety of the prisoners, brought Paul and Silas into his house where he tended their wounds, set food before them, and, after hearing the gospel, was baptized together with his whole household (Ac 16:23-34).

On the morrow the magistrates, thinking that by dismissing from the town those who had been the cause of the previous day’s disturbance they could best secure themselves against any repetition of the disorder, sent the lictors to the jailer with orders to release them. Paul refused to accept a dismissal of this kind. As Ro citizens he and Silas were legally exempt from scourging, which was regarded as a degradation (1Th 2:2), and the wrong was aggravated by the publicity of the punishment, the absence of a proper trial and the imprisonment which followed (Ac 16:37). Doubtless Paul had declared his citizenship when the scourging was inflicted, but in the confusion and excitement of the moment his protest had been unheard or unheeded. Now, however, it produced a deep impression on the magistrates, who came in person to ask Paul and Silas to leave the city. They, after visiting their hostess and encouraging the converts to remain firm in their new faith, set out by the Egnatian Road for Thessalonica (Ac 16:38-40). How long they had stayed in Philippi we are not told, but the fact that the foundations of a strong and flourishing church had been laid and the phrase "for many days" (Ac 16:18) lead us to believe that the time must have been a longer one than appears at first sight. Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler, 226) thinks that Paul left Troas in October, 50 AD, and stayed at Philippi until nearly the end of the year; but this chronology cannot be regarded as certain.

Several points in the narrative of these incidents call for fuller consideration.

(1) We may notice, first, the very small part played by Jews and Judaism at Philippi.

(2) Even more striking is the prominence of the Ro element in the narrative. We are here not in a Greek or Jewish city, but in one of those Ro colonies which Aulus Gellius describes as "miniatures and pictures of the Ro people" (Noctes Atticae, xvi.13).

(3) Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler, 200 ff) has brought forward the attractive suggestion that Luke was himself a Philippian, and that he was the "man of Macedonia" who appeared to Paul at Troas with the invitation to enter Macedonia (Ac 16:9).

In any case, the change from the 3rd to the 1st person in Ac 16:10 marks the point at which Luke joined the apostle, and the same criterion leads to the conclusion that Luke remained at Philippi between Paul’s first and his third visit to the city (see below). Ramsay’s hypothesis would explain (a) the fullness and vividness of the narrative of Ac 16:11-40; (b) the emphasis laid on the importance of Philippi (16:12); and (c) the fact that Paul recognized as a Macedonian the man whom he saw in his vision, although there was nothing either in the language, features or dress of Macedonians to mark them out from other Greeks. Yet Luke was clearly not a householder at Philippi (Ac 16:15), and early tradition refers to him as an Antiochene (see, however, Ramsay, in the work quoted 389 f).

(4) Much discussion has centered round the description of Philippi given in Ac 16:12. The reading of Codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, Ephraemi, etc., followed by Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek, the Revised Version (British and American), etc., is: hetis estin prote tes meridos Makedonias polis kolonia. But it is doubtful whether Makedonias is to be taken with the word which precedes or with that which follows, and further the sense derived from the phrase is unsatisfactory. For prote must mean either

(1) first in political importance and rank, or

(2) the first which the apostle reached. But the capital of the province was Thessalonica, and if tes meridos be taken to refer to the easternmost of the 4 districts into which Macedonia had been divided in 168 BC (though there is no evidence that that division survived at this time), Amphipolis was its capital and was apparently still its most important city, though destined to be outstripped by Philippi somewhat later. Nor is the other rendering of prote (adopted, e.g. by Lightfoot) more natural.

It supposes that Luke reckoned Neapolis as belonging to Thrace, and the boundary of Macedonia as lying between Philippi and its seaport; moreover, the remark is singularly pointless; the use of estin rather than en is against this view, nor is prote found in this sense without any qualifying phrase. Lastly, the tes in its present position is unnatural; in Codex Vaticanus it is placed after, instead of before, meridos, while D (the Bezan reviser) reads kephale tes Makedonias. Of the emendations which have been suggested, we may notice three:

(a) for meridos Hort has suggested Pieridos, "a chief city of Pierian Macedonia";

(b) for prote tes we may read protes, "which belongs to the first region of Macedonia";

(c) meridos may be regarded as a later insertion and struck out of the text, in which case the whole phrase will mean, "which is a city of Macedonia of first rank" (though not necessarily the first city).

4. Paul’s Later Visits:

5. Later History of the Church:

After the death of Paul we hear but little of the church or of the town of Philippi. Early in the 2nd century Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, was condemned as a Christian and was taken to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts. After passing through Philadelphia, Smyrna and Troas, he reached Philippi. The Christians there showed him every mark of affection and respect, and after his departure wrote a letter of sympathy to the Antiochene church and another to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, requesting him to send them copies of any letters of Ignatius which he possessed. This request Polycarp fulfilled, and at the same time sent a letter to the Philippians full of encouragement, advice and warning. From it we judge that the condition of the church as a whole was satisfactory, though a certain presbyter, Valens, and his wife are severely censured for their avarice which belied their Christian profession. We have a few records of bishops of Philippi, whose names are appended to the decisions of the councils held at Sardica (344 AD), Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451), and the see appears to have outlived the city itself and to have lasted down to modern times (Le Quien, Oriens Christ., II, 70; Neale, Holy Eastern Church, I, 92). Of the destruction of Philippi no account has come down to us. The name was perpetuated in that of the Turkish hamlet Felibedjik, but the site is now uninhabited, the nearest village being that of Raktcha among the hills immediately to the North of the ancient acropolis. This latter and the plain around are covered with ruins, but no systematic excavation has yet been undertaken. Of the extant remains the most striking are portions of the Hellenic and Hellenistic fortification, the scanty vestiges of theater, the ruin known among the Turks as Derekler, "the columns," which perhaps represents the ancient thermae, traces of a temple of Silvanus with numerous rock-cut reliefs and inscriptions, and the remains of a triumphal arch (Kiemer).


The fullest account of the site and antiquities is that of Heuzey and Daumet, Mission archeologique de Macedoine, chapters i through v and Plan A; Leake, Travels in Northern Greece, III, 214-25; Cousinery, Voyage dana la Macedoine, II, 1 ff; Perrot, "Daton. Neapolis. Les ruines de Philippos," in Revue archeologique, 1860; and Hackett, in Bible Union Quarterly, 1860, may also be consulted. For the Latin inscriptions see Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, III, 1, numbers 633-707; III, Suppl., numbers 7337-7358; for coins, B.V. Head, Historia Numorum, 192; Catalogue of Coins in the British Museum: Macedonia, etc., 96. For the history of the Philippian church and the narrative of Ac 16:12-40 see Lightfoot, Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, 47-65; Ramsay, Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 202-26; Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of Paul, chapter ix; Farrar, Life and Work of Paul, chapter xxv; and the standard commentaries on the Acts--especially Blass, Acta Apostolorum--and on Philippians.

M. N. Tod